Biking and Rail Trails in the Nashua River Watershed
The cities and towns that make up the Nashua River watershed provide many opportunities to get out on a bicycle, whether it’s for exercise, recreation, or non-motorized transportation. The gently rolling terrain of most of the towns in the watershed is conducive for bicycling.
Several towns, such as Harvard, Massachusetts and Hollis, New Hampshire, are biking destinations for racing enthusiasts who are looking for the challenge of hills combined with scenic views. Some communities run races annually for amateurs and semi-professionals. Real bike racing excitement can be found at the annual Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA. The race, run since 1960, is named for Art Longsjo, a Fitchburg resident, who was an incredibly talented athlete, qualifying for both the 1956 Winter Olympic team as a speed skater and the 1956 U.S. Summer Olympic team as a cyclist. The race draws international-caliber racers including Tour de France winners, Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond, as well as Olympians like Eric and Beth Heiden.
For those who are not looking for competition and prefer to ride away from car traffic, options found in the Nashua River watershed include paved or crushed gravel rail trails, such as the Nashua River Rail Trail, which offer a predictably even surface and level grade for bikers at any skill level.
Watershed Rail Trails
Nashua River Rail Trail
The NRWA played a role in the creation of the Nashua River Rail Trail, a 12-mile paved trail running from the center of Ayer, through Groton and Pepperell, to Nashua, New Hampshire. The trail is flat with only a gradual grade making it perfect for biking at any age (also perfect for strollers, wheelchairs, walking, or rollerblading). The trail is great for cross-country skiing in the winter. There is an additional gravel path beside the trail for the seven-mile stretch through Groton to Dunstable to allow for horseback riding. The trail’s northern half is predominantly forested, traveling through J. Harry Rich State Forest, and alongside the Nashua River. The southern half tends to be more open as it runs along agricultural fields, wetlands and small ponds. A day on the trail may bring you a sighting of a Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Wood Ducks, swans, beaver dams, and more.
Mason-Greenville Rail Trail
One of the most outstanding recreational features in Mason, New Hampshire is the Railroad Trail which runs 6.7 miles across the center of town from the state line north of Townsend State Forest through Russell Abbott State Forest in the northwest corner of Mason. It passes right by Pratt Pond in that state forest, a very peaceful scenic spot. Travelers on the trail will glimpse a bit of Mason’s history from old quarry sites to the 1849 Jackson Road trestle to Wolf rock, inscribed for a traveling preacher who spent a winter night on its top besieged by wolves.
Mass Central Rail Trail- Wachusett Greenways
Wachusett Greenways is a team of volunteers who advocate for greenways and open space, working to expand a network of trails for non-motorized recreation in Holden, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, Sterling, and West Boylston. Their current massive undertaking is the completion of the Wachusett Greenways section of the Mass Central Rail Trail. This 10 foot wide multi-use trail will run from Sterling Center to Oakham and eventually west to Barre, a total of 30 miles. Views along the trail include West Lake Waushacum from the Quag Bridge in Sterling, the scenic Quinapoxet River in West Boylston, the historic Springdale Mill site in Holden, and the dramatic trail through a granite cut and tunnel on Charnock Hill in Rutland.
Squannacook River Rail Trail – Proposed
The NRWA has been continuously involved in the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail (SRRT) project for over ten years. The goal is to build a rail trail along the MBTA owned, but discontinued, rail line that runs near the Squannacook River. The proposed trail is a 3.7 mile rail trail that would stretch from West Groton to Townsend center, passing by the North Middlesex Regional High School, two shopping centers, historical districts, protected open space, and other key resources; furthermore, it would allow for alternative transportation parallel to, but off of, the heavily trafficked Route 119. There is strong community support for this project and abutter concerns have been considered and addressed. Work on the SRRT is being forwarded by the non-profit organization, Squannacook Greenways.